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James Robert Hester
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  • Augusta, GA
  • United States
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African Thumb Piano Tuning
14 Replies

In Afro-American Folksongs, published in 1913, ,Henry E. Krehbiel describes an African instrument called a zanze as follows:"The zanze is a small sound-box...hollowed out in the form of a round gourd…Continue

Tags: Scales, Natural

Started this discussion. Last reply by James Robert Hester Sep 27.

 

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James Robert Hester replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"Aindrias, (Hopefully) I have attached an article by John Garst on the origin of African-American spirituals, which I think rings true. It will be helpful if you get around to thinking further about Krehbiel's ideas. Bob"
Sep 27
James Robert Hester replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"Aindrias, Here's a link where you can download a copy of Krehbiel: https://archive.org/details/afrofolk00kreh The table in question is on page 43. He says that his compilation included 527 songs. Now, the first four lines of the table add…"
Sep 23
Aindrias Hirt replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"Should be "what is stress and unstress""
Sep 23
Aindrias Hirt replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"'Looks spot on. I'll have to read the reference. I will also have to reinterpret the "ordinary" modes since the non-natural scale notes probably fall on unstressed beats. This is problematic since Afro-rhythms can be quite…"
Sep 23
James Robert Hester replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"Hi Aindrias, I'm not sure how I could test a zanze, but my question is not so much about the instrument as it is about on what basis such an instrument might be tuned. Africans and Afro-Americans had a pitch aesthetic that was informed by…"
Sep 21
Ruud Bemelmans replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"If the zanzes' tuning is derived from any instrument using the overtone series it has to be…"
Sep 21
Richard Wicksteed replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"Thanks - fascinating discussion."
Sep 21
Aindrias Hirt replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"Hi This indeed does look like the natural scale. You will have to measure it though. Firstly, it looks similar to a juice (Jews) harp which is definitely the natural scale. The difference is that with the juice harp, the box is flexible but the…"
Sep 20
James Robert Hester replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"Great! My main interest is in slave songs from the American Civil War period. Writings on these songs, beginning with Slave Songs of the United States in 1867, generally approach them from the perspective of the equally tempered diatonic scale.…"
Sep 20
Ruud Bemelmans replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"Received it. I don't hang around here often myself, but I saw this topic come up in an email and figured I'd reply."
Sep 20
James Robert Hester replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"Hi Ruud, I'm new to OMN discussions, so this is a test to see if you get my reply before I write something only to see it go off into the ether. Let me know if you get this. Regards, Bob Hester"
Sep 20
Scott Peterson replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"Pentatonic tuning is just one of many possibilities. In Zimbabwe there are many kinds of tunings, many derived from different modes. Often the scales aren't tuned exactly to our western equal temperament. Many of the African musicians I have…"
Sep 20
Wolfgang Saus replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"I asume what he means is the mbira. In Mozambique they are called nsansi. They have different tunings. A friend has two originally tuned ones. I'll try to analyze them on Overtone Analyzer. Until then enjoy listening.…"
Sep 20
Ruud Bemelmans replied to the discussion 'African Thumb Piano Tuning'
"I study ethnomusicology at SOAS in London with a focus on Africa and India. It does sound like a lamellophone commonly referred to as thumb piano. However, neither the term zanze nor the location given can be used conclusively to identify exactly…"
Sep 20
James Robert Hester left a comment for 'Aindrias Hirt'
"Aindrias, I recently posted a question on OMN about the tuning of an African thumb piano described in Henry E. Krehbiel's 1913 Afro-American Folksongs. My question was prompted by your piece on the European Folk Music Scale in Ethnomusicology…"
Sep 18
James Robert Hester posted a discussion

African Thumb Piano Tuning

In Afro-American Folksongs, published in 1913, ,Henry E. Krehbiel describes an African instrument called a zanze as follows:"The zanze is a small sound-box...hollowed out in the form of a round gourd to the upper side of which, over a bridge, are tightly affixed a series of wooden or metal tongues of different lengths. The tongues are snapped with the thumbs...and give out a most agreeable sound. I find out no records in the accounts of travellers as to any systematic tuning of the instrument,…See More
Sep 16

Profile Information

About me:
Retired chemical/metallurgical engineer. Earned BA in music after retirement. Interested in music history specializing in Afro-American slave songs. Author of A Yankee Scholar in Coastal South Carolina published by the University of South Carolina. Pending book: A Yankee Scholar in Helena, Arkansas.
Influences:
I began my pursuit of music as a performer in Broadway musicals and light opera. From there, I performed Renaissance and Baroque pieces as member of the Augusta (GA) Collegium Musicum. I received a BA in music from Augusta State University in 2010. My senior thesis was "Slave Songs of Augusta, Georgia. Initially, I became interested in slave songs in 2004, when I tried my hand at four-voice arrangements of spirituals that were attributed to Augusta in the anthology Slave Songs of the United States. My book A Yankee Scholar in Coastal South Carolina was published by the University of South Carolina in 2015. My second book A Yankee Scholar in Helena, Arkansas, is being considered for publication by Mercer University (Macon, GA). My current interest is in the origin of black spirituals, which is what brought me to the Overtone Music Network. If I were to name a long-term influence in the study of overtonal music, it would be W. A. Matthieu's Harmonic Experience. I find his approach to music theory to be a useful adjunct to classical theory. (Just an opinion.) Very recently, I became interested in Aindrias Hirt's theory of natural scales in European folk music.

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